Privacy Law

Parties in slip-and-fall case ordered to hire neutral expert to probe plaintiff's Facebook page

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A Lancaster County, Pa. judge has ordered the parties in a personal injury lawsuit to hire a “neutral forensic computer expert” to probe a plaintiff’s Facebook account.

The defendants are Lancaster Regional Medical Center and Hospital Housekeeping Systems. Grace Perrone asserts she she slipped and fell in a puddle of liquid in an LRMC elevator, suffered serious injuries to her knee and back, and that she needs surgery but cannot afford it.

The order grants limited discovery by granting the neutral expert authority to review Perrone’s private Facebook page during a 17-day period after the alleged fall when defense attorneys say she was photographed playing in the snow, the Legal Intelligencer (reg. req.) reports. The defense will bear the cost of the expert who will download Perrone’s Facebook data during that time to review it for evidence that she was engaged in activities that, as the defense argued, someone would not be able to do if he or she had the injuries Perrone is claiming.

“Information available on a person’s public page, or the lack thereof, has become the predominant standard among state judges in granting or denying access to a party’s entire private Facebook or other social media account,” the Legal Intelligencer reports.

The defendants argue that Perrone exhibits in the images “no visible indications of pain whatsoever.” Perrone argued in a brief responding to the discovery request that the photos and videos were taken before the accident. This highlights a growing quandary for courts left to determine the dates on which Facebook photos or videos are taken when they don’t match the date on which they are posted.

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